Ran into Roy at the Pukalani Longs store. We first met more than 30 years ago. He was running the small grocery that was replaced by the Pukalani Minit Stop. The grocery was classic old Maui - wooden floor, a couple of short aisles and a counter up front. Roy and a woman who worked there always had time to talk story. It was a regular cigarette stop until it was torn down.
Among other personal changes Maui brought about was a switch in cigarette brands. Until moving to Maui, Chesterfield was the brand of choice. Apparently, it didn't sell well. Most of the packs had cigarettes riddled with worm holes. Camels - the original short ones without filters - were more popular and were fresh.
"So what are you up to these days?" I asked.
Roy grinned. "I'm retired and driving my wife crazy. Do you still ride a motorcycle?" The Dancer was parked outside.
That brought about an episode of old man's syndrome - remembering stuff. The Yamaha XT500 was new, the first of her kind sold on Maui. I was on a cigarette run and left her in the gravel parking lot next to Roy's store, key in the ignition. I came out to find her gone.
A wave of panic. It was my only form of transportation and the Bank of Hawaii was still the legal owner. For some forgotten reason I walked around the back of the store and there she was. Apparently someone had tried to steal it but couldn't get it started. You had to know a four-step drill in order to kick the War Horse into life.
There was another time thieves were frustrated. A flat rear tire left me stranded late at night on Kaahumanu Avenue just before Papa. I parked her, pulled out the tools and removed the rear wheel and hitchhiked home. While contemplating the knuckle-busting job ahead, I made a call to the police dispatcher, told her about the bike.
Next day: Tire repaired, got a friend to give me a lift into town. The bike was gone. Friend drove me to a pay phone. It was a short ride. There were a lot of pay phones in those pre-cell days.
The dispatcher was up to speed. A patrol officer had been alerted, noticed it was gone, looked around and found it not far away on Wahi Hoolaha Street, that stub of a road that led up to KGMB and The Maui News. The officers loaded the War Horse into a van and drove it to the Wailuku station on High Street.
"We've got it in the impound room," the dispatcher said. "You can pick it up there."
The XT had plenty of company. A half-dozen or more bikes sat in the room on the backside of what once had been the county building. The rear wheel was installed. She wouldn't start due to a missing fuel line. A replacement was "borrowed" from one of the other bikes.
There weren't that many police on the island. It was easy getting to know them. One night, the War Horse developed an electrical affliction. The only way the headlight worked was if you held the clutch lever in a certain, hand-cramping way.
Sitting at the bottom of Haleakala Highway, waiting for left hand to recover. A cop car containing an acquaintance pulled up alongside. "Got a problem?" Told him. "Why don't you just follow me up the highway to Pukalani. Your taillight works, yeah?" It did. Wild ride ensued.
The officer smoked his tires on the way to more than 80 mph. The War Horse managed the speed better than the rider did. At the end of the run, the officer said "I thought you might enjoy speeding without worrying about a ticket." Well, yeah, sort of.
The War Horse was a two-wheeled jeep and in those days there were dirt roads and tracks that ran in all directions. For three or four years, she'd carry me down the asphalt to town and back home through the fields. 'A'ole pilikia. Great fun to ride the sugar cane roads running along the tops of gulches.
A favorite field ride was from Pukalani to Suda's in Kihei. A sort of road ran along the top of the fields, through the bottoms of gulches and around piles of car-sized boulders - probably the same route the state Department of Transportation picked for the Upcountry-Kihei road that may still be built, bumbye.
Another favorite ride was on Waiko Road. It once ran all the way to Mokulele, a dirt track covered with talcum powder dust when it was dry and fun mud when it was wet.
Once, I had a flat on that section of road. But that's another story about a time on Maui when people were few and a guy could take a War Horse off-road just about anywhere. Try it today and you'll have to get around gates and risk being busted for trespassing.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News, His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.